DONIZETTI: Elisir d'amore

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Gaetano Donizetti(1797-1848): L'elisir d'amore (Highlights)

Gaetano Donizetti wasthe leading composer of Italian opera in the short period between the earlyretirement of Rossini and death of Bellini and Verdi's first success with Nabuccoin 1842. He was born in Bergamo in 1797 and had his early musical trainingthere as a chorister under Simon Mayr at S Maria Maggiore. Through Mayr hereceived a very thorough musical training and was able to have his first opera,Zoraida di Granata, mounted in Rome in 1822. There followed a period inNaples, with operas for the Teatro Nuovo there and for the Teatro alla Scala inMilan. It was at the latter opera house that he established his internationalreputation in 1830 with the opera Anna Bolena. He confirmed this successin Milan two years later with the comedy L'elisir d'amore. In his latercareer he wrote again for Naples and, accepting an invitation from Rossini,visited Paris, where French grand opera had an influence on his style.

Subsequent operas included a version of one of Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels, whichbecame Lucia di Lammermoor. Pressure of work, as he set out to followthe example of Rossini, who had been able to retire by the age of 38, brought abreak-down in health, accentuated by an earlier syphilitic infection. He spenta period in an asylum near Paris, eventually returning home to Bergamo, wherehe died in 1848.

L'elisir d'amore was written in a remarkably short time, at the requestof the impresario of the Teatro della Canobbiana in Milan, who had been letdown by another composer and now needed a new opera to open his spring season,according to the later account of the librettist's wife only two weeks away.

With the collaboration of the librettist Felice Romani, the work was completed,its text based in general on an existing French libretto by Eug?¿ne Scribe thathad been set by Auber and staged in Paris a year earlier. Romani's wife claimedthat the whole work was written within a fortnight, an obvious exaggeration,since it seems that Donizetti had already completed much of the opera somethree weeks before it was to be staged, not to open the season, but to bestaged as a later part of it. The opera was an immediate success, itscontinuing place in international repertoire comparable to that of Donizetti'sother comic opera, Don Pasquale.


The first act of L'elisir d'amore opens in an Italian village inthe eighteenth century. Villagers are resting from their work. Adina, who hasthe farm, sits reading, apart from the others, watched by the simple youngpeasant Nemorino. [1] In Quanto ?¿ bella, quanta ?¿ cara (How fair she is,how dear she is) he thinks of his love for her, realising he has no hope, sinceshe is so clever and he is so foolish (Io son sempre un idiota). [2]Adina laughs with delight at the story she is reading, Benedette questecarte! (Delightful pages!), the tale of Tristan and Yseult and thelove-potion that she would like to find for herself.

A march is heard and Sergeant Belcore enters, with a troop of soldiers,at once, to Nemorino's despair, showing gallantry towards Adina, who respondsto his advances and offers entertainment to the sergeant and his men. Nemorinoseeks an opportunity to talk to her, but she tells him to leave her alone. [3]In Chiedi all'aura lusinghiera (Ask the playful breeze why it blows) shetells him that she is capricious, while he explains that he cannot help lovingher.

The scene is now the village square. The sound of a trumpet is heard,announcing the approach of Doctor Dulcamara on his gilded carriage, holdingpapers and bottles. [4] He calls for their attention, Udite, udite, orustici (Hear, hear, you villagers) and starts to list the possible effectsof the miracle potion he has to offer, a wonderful medicine to cure all evils.

It seems that Nemorino may have found the answer to his problems, sent fromheaven, and he approaches Dulcamara, asking if, by chance, he may have thelove-potion of Queen Yseult, the elixir of love. Dulcamara is delighted to beof service and offers him a distillation, in fact simply red wine, that happilymatches in price the single zecchino that Nemorino has. [5] Nemorino isdelighted with his purchase, singing its praises in Caro elisir! Sei mio! (Dearelixir! You are mine!). He drinks, sips and drinks again. [6] Now happy andhungry, he sings Lallarallara la la la la, as he sits outside the inn.

Adina sees him, but cannot understand his sudden elation. He thinks ofapproaching her, but then decides to give the elixir time to work, and muncheshis bread, while ignoring her. She resolves to rekindle his affections and lethim suffer more. [7] The voice of Belcore is heard, singing of love and war, Trantran tran... In guerra ed in amor (Tran tran tran... In war and in love), as heemerges from the inn, to be welcomed by Adina, who teases him about his earlierboast that he can win her heart in six days. Nemorino, unaccountably, finds thesuggestion risible. [8] There is a drum-roll and the peasant girl Giannettaruns in, with fellow villagers and men of Belcore's troop, crying out Signorsargente, signor sargente (Mister Sergeant, Mister Sergeant). It seems thatorders have come for Belcore and his men to leave the next morning. Now Adinaand Belcore must marry at once. [9] Nemorino, however, begs her to wait for aday, Adina, credimi (Adina, believe me). The villagers think Nemorino isfoolish to think he can do better than the sergeant, while he resolves to seekout Dulcamara for further help, as Adina's wedding seems now about to takeplace.

The second act is set inside Adina's farm-house, where villagers sing tothe health of Adinil and Belcore. [10] Dulcamara entertains the company with asong, Io son ricco e tu sei bella (I am rich and you are fair), joinedby Adina, who sings the answering verses, rejecting the old suitor of the songfor her own young lover. The others go out and Dulcamara is left alone, to bejoined by Nemorino, seeking a further potion to accelerate the philtre'saction. Dulcamara, as he goes out, tells him that he must first raise the money,at which the young man throws himself down on a bench in despair. [11] Belcoreenters the room, musing to himself about women: La donna ?¿ un animalestravagante (Woman is a strange creature). He sees Nemorino, asks him whatthe trouble is and proposes an easy way of raising money by enlisting as asoldier. [12] Nemorino fears the dangers of war, hesitating in Ai periglidella guerra (I know I shall be open to the dangers of war), but Belcoreoffers Venti scudi (Twenty scudi), which Nemorino accepts, while Belcorecongratulates himself on the removal of a rival.

In the village the girls gossip about the death of Nemorino's uncle andhis sudden inheritance. [13] Nemorino comes in, expecting results from thequantity of the elixir he has drunk: Dell'elisir mirabile bevuto ho inabbondanza (I have drunk in abundance of the wonderful elixir). He is metby the girls, who now make much of him. Adina and Dulcamara join them, equallyamazed to find Nemorino the centre of attention, she now feeling love for the youngman and Dulcamara imagining a fortune from an elixir that actually works.

Left alone with Adina, Dulcamara explains his part in the affair and howNemorino has enlisted to find money for the magic philtre. Adina now realisesthe extent of her love for Nemotino, and Dulcamara something of the true stateof affairs. They go out. [14] Nemorino, in the most famous aria of the opera,
Disc: 1
L'elisir d'amore (Highligts)
1 Act I: Cavatina - Quanto e bella, quanto e cara
2 Act I: Cavatina - Benedette queste carte... Della
3 Act I: Scena and Duet - Chiedi all' aura lusinghie
4 Act I: Cavatina: Udite, udite, o rustici
5 Act I: Recitative - Caro elisir! seo mio!
6 Act I: Duet - Lallarallara la la la la
7 Act I: Terzetto - Tran tran tran... In guerra ed i
8 Act I: Finale - Signor Sargente
9 Act I: Finale - Adina, credimi
10 Act II: Barcarolle for Two Voices - Io son ricco e
11 Act II: Scena - La donna e un animale stravagante
12 Act II: Duet - Ai perigli della guerra
13 Act II: Quartet - Dell' elisir mirabile
14 Act II: Romance - Una furtiva lagrima
15 Act II: Scena - Alto!... fronte!... Che vedo?
16 Act II: Aria and Finale: Ei corregge ogni difetto
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